By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—Currently, three simultaneous investigations are being conducted into possible wrong doing by Gov. Robert Bentley, and others in his sphere of influence according to law enforcement resource.
The Alabama Political Reporter has spoken with several individuals who have been questioned by the FBI, Alabama Ethics Commission, and the State’s Attorney General’s Office. Each person interviewed asked that their name be kept private, because to the ongoing investigation.
Federal, State and Ethics commission investigations center on possible corruption related actions taken by Bentley, and his former senior advisor, Rebekah Caldwell Mason. Bentley has admitted to an inappropriate sexting and FaceTime relationship with the married mother of three.
Federal investigators according to reliable sources are looking into the possible mishandling of campaign finances, Mason working as an unpaid advisor, Mason’s company RCM Communications, and her husband’s company JRM. Others avenues of inquiry are also underway into relationships cultivated by Bentley and Mason, with regards to the 501(c) 4, ACE.gov, also known by those close to the non-profit as “the girlfriend fund.”
Bentley and Mason have been under watch for sometime, but the firing of Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) Chief Spencer, triggered an all-out siege by law enforcement. Those with knowledge of the ongoing probe, say they have rarely seen federal prosecutors move with such swift and decisive action.
Current ALEA head, Stan Stabler, is under the microscope for allegations he made in the press, accusing Collier and others of misappropriation of State funds or resources. There is also an inquiry into why Stabler and SBI Director Wiggins closed several ongoing criminal investigations being pursued by the agency.
Of particular interest was the closing of an investigation into possible ethics violations by Sen. Phil Williams (R-Rainbow City). Staffers have reported that Williams sought Bentley’s help concerning the ALEA investigations.
If charges are brought against Bentley and/or Mason, a look at the case involving the former Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber and his fiancé and honorary First Lady, Cylvia Hayes, may be in order.
There is also much to learn from the fall of former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, and First Lady, Maureen McDonnell. The first couple was found guilty of accepting gifts and sweetheart loans in exchange for agreeing to promote a businesses products within the state government.
If Bentley and/or Mason are indicted, it will most likely be under an honest services fraud provision of the federal mail, and wire fraud statute.
Honest services fraud is a crime defined in 18 U.S.C. § 1346 the federal mail and wire fraud statute, in 1988 the United States Congress , added “For the purposes of this chapter, the term scheme or artifice to defraud includes a scheme or artifice to deprive another of the intangible right of honest services.”
An honest services charge is used when a public officials make decisions based on personal interests or personal gain. In these cases the public official is defrauding the public of honest services.
The investigation is continuing to intensify, according to those with knowledge of the probe, and will likely snare others in the web, some say was created by the Bentley-Mason affair and subsequent cover-up.